The first Circularity Gap Report for a city

Munich is one of Germany’s biggest and wealthiest cities. An innovation hub, a consumption hotspot and a magnet for talent, it represents the quintessential modern European city. But in upholding its lavish lifestyle and top-of-the-line industries, Munich draws a massive amount of resources from beyond its borders.

This makes it an ideal place to pioneer the Circularity Gap Report methodology at the city level. The outcomes are encouraging: the city is well-poised to scale its circular economy initiatives, with the analysis showing that it can use 43% less materials than it uses now while cutting its consumption-based CO2 emissions by 23%. The Circularity Gap Report Munich shows how to achieve this.
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It takes an enormous amount of raw materials to keep Munich going

On average, Munich residents consume 32 tonnes of virgin materials annually. This is 11 tonnes more than the average German citizen and four times the estimated ‘sustainable’ level of 8 tonnes per person per year.

Furthermore, Munich’s CO2 emissions of 23 tonnes per capita* exceed the national average of 14 tonnes by almost two-thirds and are nearly two and a half times the footprint of the average EU citizen.

Just two sectors are responsible for the bulk of emissions and material use

The built environment—including construction and the use of buildings—and manufacturing concentrate over three-quarters of Munich’s material footprint and two-thirds of its carbon footprint.*
Click here to dive further into the resource use behind Munich’s economy
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Munich’s key circularity indicators

Out of all materials consumed by the urban economy, 2.4% are secondary (recycled). Over half of them are downcycled construction and demolition waste. What’s more, over 60% of materials in Munich are locked into stock, like roads and buildings, and thus cannot be reused in the near future. And around one-third of Munich’s material use is fossil fuels—a high percentage that drives circularity down, as fossil fuels are burnt to create energy and can’t be reused.

The city’s environmental impacts go far beyond its borders

Munich maintains its robust economy with imports. For every 100 kilogrammes of resources a Munich resident consumes, 52 kilogrammes come from abroad. While resources are consumed locally, the environmental pressures stemming from their extraction, processing and transportation are felt globally.

The circular economy is the answer to Munich’s challenges

The city should rethink how it handles materials to keep Munich and the planet livable in the years to come. Boosting recycling alone will not significantly advance circularity. It should go hand in hand with diminishing overall material consumption by using fewer resources more efficiently and generating less waste. The Circularity Gap Report Munich estimates that the city could continue meeting its societal needs with 43% less materials than it currently consumes. This would also mean cutting carbon emissions by up to 23%*.

Five scenarios for the circular transition

Munich citizens enjoy a comfortable, high-quality life. However, this comes at a great environmental cost. By implementing circular economy strategies across five key sectors, Munich can transform its economy to reduce negative impacts within and beyond its borders while maintaining its high living standards.
Build a circular built environment
Material footprint reduced by 18.3%.
Carbon footprint* reduced by 17.3%.
Munich’s building stock has been rapidly expanding over the past decades. Today, analysis shows that over 90% of buildings needed in Munich for the coming years have already been constructed. The city could, therefore, optimise its building stock expansion by, for example, prolonging the lifetime of existing buildings. Retrofitting can also help shape a low-carbon, energy-efficient building stock, along with accelerating the municipality's decarbonisation efforts. For new buildings, the city could embrace more efficient building practices such as low-carbon construction materials and modular, multi-purpose design.
Case study: New circular district at the Bayernkaserne
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Shift to a circular food system
Material footprint reduced by 2.7%.
Carbon footprint* reduced by 3.8%.
Germany boasts the fourth-largest organic crop area and number of producers in Europe! But a shift to more sustainable food production in cities also implies urban agriculture. In addition to many existing community gardens, Munich is exploring rooftop gardens, greening setback areas and small-scale green spaces. However, in terms of endorsing a balanced diet, the city has a long way to go. Organic products and healthier diets are on the rise, yet the average resident's diet is still overly calorie-dense and meat-based. The city can also look at reducing and valorising food waste, which is currently produced at a rate of 70 kilogrammes per person per year.
Case study: Community Kitchen
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Advance circular manufacturing
Material footprint reduced by 12.2%.
Carbon footprint* reduced by 9.7%.
Munich is a manufacturing hub: the sector employs almost 100,000 workers. We envision a circular manufacturing sector for Munich where product lifetimes are extended through R-strategies such as repair and remanufacturing, especially for machinery, equipment and vehicles. The city is well poised to take on this challenge:, Germany is already Europe’s leader in terms of revenue from remanufacturing! With its skilled workforce and interconnected industries, Munich can further innovate and facilitate such activities. On top of that, the city can focus on advancing resource-efficient manufacturing by utilising scrap metals and slashing industrial waste.
Case study: Encory
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Promote a circular lifestyle
Material footprint reduced by 10.2%.
Carbon footprint* reduced by 13.9%.
Consumers in Munich are increasingly purchasing new products and replacing them sooner, whether it comes to clothes, electronics or plastic items. Even with rising collection and recycling rates, the sheer amount of waste generated by its residents drives circularity down. Embracing a ‘material sufficiency’ lifestyle can combat this unsustainable trend. In practice, this means buying less, swapping ownership for rent and practising reuse and repair, for example. At the same time, local producers can bolster circularity by designing their products for easy repair and recycling.
Case study: Erfinder Garden
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Redesign mobility
Material footprint reduced by 3.7%.
Carbon footprint* reduced by 4.4%.
Despite a well-developed public transport network, Munich is the most congested city in the country, and its airport is Germany’s second busiest. Clearly, there is a need to reduce or avoid unnecessary travel by replacing domestic flights with train trips and promoting hybrid and flexible work. What’s more, Munich wields the power to drive cleaner urban mobility forward by encouraging residents to use lightweight and electric vehicles, promoting shared mobility and electrifying public transport.
Case study: Bergbus
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Explore the methodology behind our work (English - PDF)
Coming soon

The way forward

With these key policy actions, Munich's municipal government will play a critical role in the transition by:
  • Mobilising all stakeholders through a comprehensive and holistic circular city strategy;
  • Bringing local communities and businesses on board through education and awareness raising;
  • Managing the urban landscape to create an enabling environment; Supporting and incentivising new business models and opportunities; and Regulating and enforcing legislation.
  • Supporting and incentivising new business models and opportunities;
  • and Regulating and enforcing legislation.
Munich’s circularity journey has already begun. The Circularity Gap Report Munich will guide the city on its way.
*This report uses a consumption-based carbon accounting approach for emissions from goods and services consumed by the residents of a locality, regardless of where those emissions occur. However, normally a territorial-based methodology is used in Germany to calculate GHG balances at the municipal level, using the BISKO standard. Thus, Munich's GHG balances following the BISKO standard should and can not directly be compared with the results of this study.


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